It’s no secret that students pay through the nose to secure housing near campus. But permanent, low-income city residents face similarly inflated housing prices. Low-income housing has become less and less available for residents and students alike. A proposal to turn one of three government-owned properties downtown into cheap and convenient housing was supposed to offer some relief for low-income residents. But a disturbing lack of attention and support from Washtenaw County commissioners has brought this plan to a halt, possibly permanently. City and county officials need to renew their commitment to providing residents with the affordable, dense housing they require.

Six months ago, community development officials proposed the conversion of one of three city- or county-owned lots into 60 to 100 low-income housing units for residents displaced by the closing of a local YMCA. Approximately 80 percent of the proposed conversions’ cost could be paid for by federal tax credits, which the city is eligible for because the large number of students — many of whom are still dependent on their parents or work only part-time — inflates the area’s unemployment rate. The target occupants for the housing would be those who earn about 10 to 15 percent of the area’s median income.

But according to a June 24 article by the Ann Arbor News titled “Plan to create low-income housing in downtown Ann Arbor stalled,” the project’s progress has stalled indefinitely. The problem seems to stem from the inability of county commissioners to agree on which lot to develop. Controversy over the location has allowed city and county officials to display a lack of interest, which seems to have derailed the project. And a lack of public outcry has allowed officials to easily sidestep the issue.

An apparent lack of communication among local officials also seems to be contributing to the stagnation of the project. The officials working on the project don’t seem to have reached a consensus about the project’s status. But that doesn’t mean this necessary project should be abandoned, and the officials in charge need to step up to make it happen.

Expensive downtown housing pushes low-income residents and students outside the city limits. Not only does this segregate residents from more modest means, but it also forces them to deal with a more expensive commute. This project has the opportunity to increase the diversity of downtown Ann Arbor with students and low-income residents alike. Yet city and county officials seem reluctant to make any headway toward this goal.

And since University students make it easier for the city to get federal cash, it stands to reason that the students should be able to profit from that gain, too. But the local government hasn’t even been able to provide housing for its permanent residents. Until it does, students will be left out in the cold.

With the closing of the YMCA and rising housing rates, Ann Arbor residents are hard-pressed to find affordable housing. The city has the power and money to change this, but instead of doing so, it has dithered about location, stalling the project. It’s time for the city to revive this flat-lining project and provide for its residents.

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